Consumer network report: International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership conference

16 Apr 2013 | Partners in Care


The International initiative for mental health leadership (IIMHL) is a ‘government-to-government’ initiative. It is funded by the government of the seven participating countries, and includes national organisations recognising issues affecting the sector who want to promote mental health leadership.

These organisations are:

  • The National Mental Health Development Unit (England)
  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (USA)
  • The mental health directorate of the Ministry of Health (New Zealand)
  • The Scottish Executive (Scotland)
  • The Department of Health and Children (Ireland)
  • The Department of Health and Ageing (Australia)
  • The Ministry of Health and Canadian Mental Health Commission (Canada)

IIMHL seeks a future where everyone with a mental illness / mental health problems, and those who care for them, have access to effective treatment and support from communities and providers who have the knowledge and competence to offer services that promote recovery. To achieve this vision IIMHL provides an international infrastructure to identify and exchange information about effective leadership, management and operational practices in the delivery of mental health services.

For more information about IIMHL visit their website:

Consumer reflection of IIMHL conference, by Gary Sutcliffe

This year, I joined the IIMHL and was invited to take part in an exchange hosted by East Tamaki Healthcare (PHO) and Counties Manukau District Health Board (DHB) mental health management. 

The theme of this year’s conference was “Innovation across the Lifespan: What does it take to make an impact?”  The accompanying theme for this particular exchange was “Primary Mental Health: Integrating Mental & Physical Health at Primary Care Level.”

I have written a paper on my experience of being part of this exchange and I am very happy to share this with whoever wishes to read it. 

The exchange was hosted by Tess Ahern (General Manager, Mental Health Services) and Peter Watson (Clinical Director, Counties Manukau DHB) and David Codyre (Clinical Lead, Mental Health East Tamaki Healthcare).

Fellow participants on this exchange were Lynne Lane (Mental Health Commissioner, Health & Disability Commission), Michael O’Connell (Clinical Nurse Director, Lakes DHB Mental Health & Addiction Service), Andrea Fox (Chief Medical Officer, Squirrel Hill Health Center, Pittsburgh, USA) and Patrick Geoghegan (Chief Executive, South Essex Partnership Trust, Wickford, UK).  We were also joined by Ken Thompson, Chief Medical Officer for Recovery Innovations from Pittsburgh & Phoenix USA.

Presentations were made by:

  • East Tamaki Healthcare as part of the Nirvana Health Group, a significant and successful primary health organisation (PHO) based in East and South Auckland and extended to include West Auckland Healthcare.
  • South Essex Partnership (University NHS Foundation) Trust (SEPT), an organisation employing 7,500 staff and a budget of £350 million. 
  • NZ Mental Health Commissioner Lynne Lane and information regarding the development of Blueprint II, staffing of mental health-focussed personnel at the Health & Disability Commission and the work plan for the next three years.  The Commission is in the process of tendering for a real time feedback system to amplify the consumer experience
  • Counties Manukau DHB Very High Intensive User (VHIU) pilot programme with adult patients who have had five or more presentations to the emergency department in the previous 12 months.
  • Stanford Self-Management Programme and the evaluation of a six-week programme, led by peer leaders and involving people with long term conditions and/or people who care for these people.  Tools used in this programme include the Health Education Impact Questionnaire (heiQ) and the Kessler 10 Psychological Distress Scale.
  • A visit to a Pathways community-based alternative to acute inpatient admission facility in Papatoetoe which is a partnership between mental health secondary services and the community-based NGO.
  • Professional leader of peer support specialists and the clinical head of adult mental health services of the Counties Manukau DHB and background to the establishment of Peer Support within clinical mental health services in the region
  • Mental Health service integration for youth within Counties Manukau DHB.
  • Te Rawhiti Community Mental Health Centre’s primary care initiative involving the introduction of psychology consult liaison clinics, meetings between GP’s, practice nurses and other community health care providers, GP practice nurse forums, GP telephone liaison, in-service training to police staff and a shared care programme for clients on Clozapine.
  • South Auckland Special Interest Group that was formed essentially to build the capacity of GP’s and practice nurses and in building relationships in the sector/region.

There are a number of power point presentations and other resources available should anyone wish to find out more.

The IIMHL conference followed the leadership exchange, and included two days of networking meetings, introductory speakers including Associate Ministers of Health Hon Peter Dunne and Hon Tariana Turia, Shelley Campbell CEO of the Sir Peter Blake Trust, and workshops exploring best-practice solutions and challenging issues for the future.

The workshops focussed on peer support and I attended a workshop facilitated by Shaun McNeil, a New Zealand based, Scottish born advocate, and Dr Dan Fisher, a renowned psychiatrist from Massachusetts, USA. The workshop covered the origins of peer support, frustrations with mental health services and the integration of peer support, transformation of the system to recovery-based practice and aspects of supervision for peers employed in the workforce.

The workshop also covered the integrity of peer support, educational issues for top leaders in organisations and their understanding of the integrity of peer support, and that this is not about adding another layer of support but rather about the development of a mutually empowering relationship between the person accessing the service and the peer support worker. The message for organisational leaders is that if they do not consider the introduction of peer support as integral to their service operational practices then don’t engage peers! 

There was discussion, some of it led by Mary O’Hagan former Mental Health Commissioner, as to standards of practice for peers, led by peers and a need for guidelines for organisations in engaging peers. The importance of ethics and values were underscored and ongoing work to clearly define boundaries when working as a peer support worker.

I am very happy to talk or meet with anyone who would like to know more about the IIMHL or about the leadership exchange or conference. I am also willing to share a more detailed report paper I have written regarding the leadership exchange to anyone who wishes to read this. Please contact me on

Last updated 16/04/2013